When God Asks the Questions: why do you see the speck?

 Trinity Lutheran church steeple, LBJ Ranch, Stonewall, Texas
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say, ‘Let me take the speck our of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from the other person’s eye.”
– words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5
Oooh, Jesus is really messin’ with me now.
Whaddya mean a PLANK in my eye?
I’m a ‘good girl.’
(Okay, okay, maybe not a girl anymore, but I’m sure as shootin’ 
a good person, aren’t I?) 
I mean, really, isn’t it my Christian duty to help people see their faults, their foibles, their flaws?
Isn’t that what accountability is all about?
Isn’t that what it means to be a flag-bearer for the good, the true, 
the right way to do things?
Isn’t that what any good, church-going Christian believer would and should do?
Ummmm….that would be a ‘no.’

But, truth be told, it’s the default mode for most of us, most of the time. I spend way too much of my time and energy looking for the specks in my neighbors’ eyes…because that way, I don’t have to look at 
the honkin’ big log growing out of my own iris.

Jesus is using a funny word picture here,
but the laugh’s on me, I fear.
And, I venture to say, on you, too.
From Adam and Eve in that fateful garden, 
the two of them wanting to be cut in on the deal of full disclosure, 
wanting to be like God – ever since then, 
all of us have a heckuva time admitting that we are, after all,
We screw up.
We mess up.
We hurt each other,
we hurt ourselves,
we deny God,
we refuse to see what’s right in front of our faces.
Maybe, just maybe, that’s because of that big old plank sticking out of one eye!

Oh, we put a good face on it,
we pretend we can do far more than we’re equipped to do,
and we refuse to admit the depths of our own willfulness,
of our own designs on divine status.
In the words of one of my favorite preachers, 
Pastor Jon Lemmond,
“We are not God.
We’re not even a one-eyed God.
In fact, most of the time, we’re not even a 2-eyed human.
We put make-up on the specks in our eyes and call them eyelashes. 
We are play-acting, being actively deceptive. 
In fact, we are incapable of carrying out the task we have assumed (to ensure that everyone knows what the ‘right’ thing to do is, that they stand corrected with every footfall off the true path), but we refuse to admit it.”

Because we fail to recognize the true nature of sin.
Because under the guise of being the good guys,
we miss the gospel entirely and become like the Pharisees.

Double ouch.

We were reminded this morning that history is filled with horrendous stories of ‘good’ people who believed in their own righteousness, their own ‘rightness’ so thoroughly, that they committed absolutely horrendous acts against humanity.
The upshot of this q & a in the Sermon on the Mount is this:  
human beings can twist anything into a weapon and use it to hurt others.
When we become so consumed with pulling the specks out of our brother’s or sister’s eye – without first taking a darned good look at our own – we completely forget our dependence on grace, our need for rescue.
In trying to ‘save’ someone else,
we miss the Savior.
In gripping so tightly to our own idea of ‘right,’
we cannot grasp the true righteousness offered us in Jesus.
What to do?

Spend time in soul-searching and confession.
Ask the Spirit of God to enlighten us,
to forgive us,
to strengthen us for the journey of peace and reconciliation 
to which we have been called.
And always remember that the church’s real identity is this:   
the Community of Mutual Impairment!

Our text does leave room for gentle, caring correction of those to whom 
we are closest in the family of God.
BUT only after we have cleared out the sin in our own lives.
A beautiful example was given from the life of Gandhi,
a great teacher not known for being a Jesus-follower but
who never ceases to amaze me with his Christ-like wisdom and insight:
A mother brought her son to the great teacher and said:
“Papa, tell this boy of mine to stop stuffing himself with sweet things. 
They are not healthy and will harm him.”
“Come back in 3 days,” the quiet guru said.
Three days, later, mother and son returned, 
and Gandhi turned to the boy and said:
“Young man, stop stuffing yourself with sweets; 
they are not good for you and will do you harm.”
“Why, Papa, could you not have said that 3 days ago?”
“Because, my daughter, three days ago, I was stuffing myself with sweet things. I could not ask him to give up something I had not yet given up myself.”

Exactly. That’s the only way corrective advice/instruction/words of wisdom can ever be offered to another – only after we have done our own work on our own self.
And even then, we must always remember that, “even very small specks can cause a great deal of pain and that eyes are very sensitive places.” 
So, we must always, ALWAYS tune into the pain 
when we enter into this kind of conversation.
And ultimately, we must also remember that only God can declare what is good and what is not.

Time to go look in that magnifying mirror!

Finally getting back to the group at Michelle’s “HearIt/UseIt” meme and the soli deo gloria sisterhood at Jen’s place too:

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  1. It’s quite the optical trick, they way I can spot someone else’s speck so easily, without even noticing the Sequoia in my own eye.

    Thanks for this reminder, Diana!

  2. wow!!! and just when i needed to read that….. thank you and Thank you Jesus!!!

  3. wow!!! and just when i needed to read that….. thank you and Thank you Jesus!!!

  4. I loved the story you shared about
    Ghandi….It really puts this whole post in perspective and drives home the point.

    In this case, “me, first” is more than appropriate!

    Great word-

  5. The whole concept isn’t funny, but I can’t stopping laughing, Diana. Because I keep seeing the :honkin’ big log” popping out of the iris. And then here is Sheila in the comment box with a Sequoia in her eye. 🙂

    Me? I can’t see the forest for all the trees in these eyes.

    Thanks for the laugh, and of course, for the lesson, too. I’m headed to cut down a few trees. 🙂

  6. Diana – You have captured well this sense that we think we are the good guys most of the time, when really we are the pharisees. I have a lot of logs to clean out of these eyes, too!

  7. Thanks for including the ‘what to do’ section.


  8. Working on myself… I’m working on it! I really appreciated this today.

  9. I always get told, “clean up your own side of the street first”. Too bad that picking through my neighbor’s trash is more fun. 😉 I don’t say things out loud to people the way I used to, but it still is happening in my mind, this listing of another’s faults. Still have a ways to go, don’t I?

  10. This has been the most convicting for me this year: we pretend we can do far more than we’re equipped to do.

    It becomes all about pride — our need to build up ourselves and so we horribly tear down another. thank you for this post. So well said.

  11. I hate looking in the mirror and finding a pharisee with a log in my eye. ugh… good stuff.

    side note: two years ago a good friend here was out hiking with her son when she tripped and fell on a stick that impaled her eye. Trauma, fear, pain and hours later they were able to locate her in the woods. It was removed and she is safe. Her story/lessons on this very topic are remarkable to say the least.

    Love to you on this beautiful day Diana!

  12. Yup, the joke is indeed on me. I fall prey to some pretty heavy self-righteousness sometimes. My husband actually has to tell me to reign it in! So yeah, I get this plank/log thing. And I’m grateful to you for pointing it out so truthfully here today, Diana!